The diverging paths of Wild Beasts’ dual frontmen since their 2018 split have been fascinating, and occasionally frustrating, to follow. When Tom Fleming was faced with the task of moving on from the band, he split the difference, opting for a wholly different sound on his self-titled debut as One True Pairing (albeit one the Beasts’ final album, ‘Boy King’, had hinted at), while retaining the band’s thematic outlook, wrestling with, amongst other things, the complexities of masculinity. Hayden Thorpe, on the other hand, did things the other way around; his first solo LP, ‘Diviner’, was a stately slice of art-pop not a million miles from his old outfit sonically, although lyrically he became more inscrutable. If only those two guys could start a band together, you might have been forgiven for thinking, when taking the two records together.
With the Beasts in the rear-view mirror, though, we instead watch as the pair head further down their own roads, and on this second full-length from Hayden, there’s evidence of real progression. The fairly austere palette that he embraced on ‘Diviner’ is swapped out for warm, burbling synths on ‘Moondust For My Diamond’; if that record was his personal ‘Two Dancers’, then this is his ‘Present Tense’. From the electronic foundation that he’s built for himself, he’s able to launch himself down different stylistic avenues, whether that’s slowly simmering synthpop (‘Parallel Kingdom’, ‘Rational Heartache’), airier, more melodic territory (‘Golden Ratio’, ‘Metafeeling’) or, on perhaps the album’s standout, spiky dance groove (‘Suspended Animation’). Hayden Thorpe is still feeling out the next leg of his musical journey, but has the distinct advantage of making every left turn he takes sound assured.
As featured in the October 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.
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